Friday, March 9, 2012
The Best of Friends
Luigi Rossi woke up with a start. The sun was shining brightly through the window of the room he'd slept in when he was growing up and living with his sister and her family. He didn't remember when he'd had a more restful night. Probably when I was living here, he thought to himself. He could hear muffled voices coming from the kitchen. He splashed water on his face, brushed his teeth and walked down the hallway stopping at the doorway.
He looked around the room. There was Eddie. He was the spitting image of his father in looks and actions. He was a very serious young man and extremely kind and caring. Tony was the curious one. He had taken to the camera Luigi had given to him when he first began working at Weston Camera Company. Tony was a natural photographer even at his very young age. His photographs helped catch a con artist last winter. Luigi loved telling that story to his coworkers. Giorgio followed Tony every where he went. He was the chatterbox of the family. The girls, Daniella and Maria looked like his sister Rosa with their long dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. What beauties they were already.
His brother, Nick was sitting at the table with his new bride, Lucinda and their daughter Cassandra. Luigi was happy Nick and Lucinda had found each other. They were a perfect match. He had adopted Cassandra shortly after the marriage and she even looked a little like the Marino family. Luigi found himself envying his younger brother. He was so busy working and securing his future with Weston's he hadn't had time for any kind of a meaningful relationship. There was never a shortage of young women and he'd been involved with a number of them but none that he could picture sitting at the Marino family table.
He thought Mamma looked wonderful. Much younger than her age although she wasn't old by any means. Papa on the other hand had a sadness about him. Mamma told him about the loss of his good friend, Mr. Russo and how he had given up the land that had been in the family for years. He winced when he thought about the fact that none of his sons were interested in taking over the land. Nick loved working with grapes but his life was here in Camden Corners. Luigi couldn't imagine his brother living anywhere else.
“Luigi, what are you standing there for, come have some breakfast.” his sister said when she noticed him in the doorway.
Rosa worried about Luigi. She had been more of a mother to her two brothers than a sister. They were both quite young when they arrived in the United States. She had seen to it that they attended school and church, did their homework, and behaved themselves at all times. Luigi was a natural scholar, he never had a failing grade and graduated at the top of his class. Nick, on the other hand struggled to get through his final exams. If it hadn't been for Rosa working with him every night he probably wouldn't have graduated. He was never interested in learning unless it had to do with grapes. He wasn't unintelligent, he just didn't like to learn what they were teaching in school. He always did well in mathematics and science, but wasn't interested in history and related subjects. Nick was happy in his life. He was doing what he had always wanted to do and he had Lucinda and Cassandra right there beside him. If what Lucinda thought was true, they would be having a little brother or sister for Cassandra one of these days. Eduardo mentioned last night that Luigi was asking about Amanda Mackenzie. Rosa thought to herself, those two were such a nice couple in high school. I wonder if Amanda is busy today?
“Sorry Rosa, I was just admiring my family. What a handsome group of folks we are.” Everyone laughed but Mamma agreed with him and smiled.
“Luigi, come sit by me.” said Mamma, your sister was telling me about a fine young girl you were friends with in high school. I do remember you writing about a girl named Amanda. I thought it was such a pretty name. Daniella tells me she is back in town after a broken engagement. Do you think she may still be interested in you?”
“Mamma, it was a high school crush. So much has happened in both our lives since then. We aren't the same people anymore. Besides, I'm sure she doesn't even remember me.”
“That's not true Uncle Luigi.” Daniella said. “Why just last week Amanda asked me how you were doing and if you were courting anyone. She smiled when I told her I didn't think so.”
“That settles it Luigi.” said Rosa, “You march yourself down to the Mackenzie house as soon as you finish your eggs. You and Amanda have wasted enough time. Now don't be stubborn.”
Luigi laughed at the women in his family who would like nothing better than to marry him off. He had to be honest with himself. He wouldn't mind that one bit. After breakfast Eduardo covered for him while he slipped out the back door. He remembered the way to the Mackenzie's house without even thinking about it. He had made the walk so many times. Amanda was his first love and if he were honest, his only love. He would have to find out more about this engagement of hers. Maybe she was pining away for the guy.
As he tapped on the door knocker he hoped he wouldn't embarrass himself. Just then the door was thrown open and a very angry looking fellow was leaving the house. He recognized Amanda as she followed him to the front walk and told him to calm down before he drove away in the horse and carriage that was waiting for him.
“He is going to kill himself.” an exasperated Amanda said to no one in particular. She turned around and saw Luigi standing before her.
“Luigi, I can't believe it's you. When did you get into town? How long will you be here? Oh Luigi you are certainly a sight for sore eyes. Come inside, please. She took hold of his arm and guided him through the door.
“I don't want to bother you Amanda, it looks like you were involved in something and I interrupted you.”
“Don't be silly. That was Nathaniel Lancaster, III. We were engaged for about 30 seconds and now he thinks he can win my heart with his shenanigans. I hope that is the last I see of him.”
“You must have some feeling for him if you accepted his proposal of marriage.
“It's a long story but I know how honorable you are so I will tell you. I'm ashamed to say that I was mesmerized by his charm and good looks. Nathaniel's grandfather, Nathaniel Lancaster, I is the founder of Lancaster Trust.”
Luigi was very familiar with Lancaster Trust and knew how influential the family was all along the eastern seaboard.
“I met Nathaniel at the wedding reception of a mutual friend in New York City when I was living there. As I said before, he was charming and I developed a crush on him almost immediately. We courted for about three months before he asked me to be his wife. I imagined my life would be filled with magic being married to a man of such wealth and influence. My friends all tried to dissuade me from even considering the marriage proposal but I was determined.
Our lives were a constant flurry of parties and activities that I had never experienced before. I didn't realize at the time but his friends were cold and indifferent to me. When we dined with his parents, which was often, his father tolerated my being with Nathaniel and was pleasant but his mother would peer over the top of her spectacles with disapproving looks. Still, I went along with it and hardly noticed. I had begged Nathaniel to accompany me home to Camden Corners to meet my family. He finally agreed and we arrived on the train one afternoon. You know what a big boisterous family we have. I think the moment I walked through the door I knew the visit was not going to go well.
Papa began quizzing Nathaniel about how he made his living and how he planned to support me. Nathaniel had never been asked questions like that before and told Papa in no uncertain terms that it was none of his business. Of course, Papa believed it was his business and refused to approve the marriage. Mama managed to calm Papa down enough to sit at the dinner table with the rest of the family. Mama had prepared her famous pot roast and gravy. Nathaniel was unaccustomed to that type of food and could not force himself to even taste the meal. That, of course, made Papa even angrier. That was just about the time I looked at Nathaniel and whatever charm I thought he had totally disappeared. I don't know why I thought a marriage between us would work. The man had absolutely no ambition and was willing to live off his family's money for the rest of his days.
Nathaniel left that evening insisting I go back to New York with him. I knew I couldn't possibly marry him and told him I was breaking off our engagement. I handed him the ring he had given to me and had such a sense of relief.
I stayed with my family for a few more days then returned to New York. I realized I had lost my perspective. I was living the kind of life I had read about in novels and that was not the way I wanted it. I gave my notice at work and came back to Camden Corners to see if I could discover myself again.
Nathaniel is unaccustomed to not getting his way. He hasn't told any of his friends or his family that we are no longer together. He has been dropping by every week or so trying to convince me to go back to New York with him. Every time he comes it is obvious he has been drinking all the the way from New York.
So there you have it. My story and not a pretty one. I'm very ashamed that I fell for such a shallow man.”
What Amanda didn't tell him is that she made a trip to Wilmington just before she became involved with Nathaniel. She had never gotten over her feelings for her high school sweetheart and Rosa had told her Luigi was not involved with anyone. She had the address of Luigi's apartment and as she was walking toward the entrance she saw him with a tall gorgeous blond. They were laughing as he opened the door for her and they disappeared into the building. She felt like a fool and high tailed it back to New York. If she had followed Luigi into the building she would have seen Luigi and the blond part at her apartment door where she was greeted by her husband who happened to be Luigi's best friend and Luigi walking by himself into his lonely living quarters.
“I'm happy you aren't marrying that fellow because now I can ask you to come to Rosa's tonight for dinner. My Mamma and Papa are here from Tuscany and I'd love to introduce you to them.”
“Oh Luigi, I'm so happy for Rosa. I know how much she has wanted your folks to visit for all these years. I would love to meet them.”
“I'll pick you up at 5:00, that will give them plenty of time to look you over. Seems my nieces have given Mamma ideas about you and me. The whole family would like to see me married off so ignore them when they start in on you. We are still the best of friends, I hope.”
“The best of friends.” Amanda replied trying to keep her disappointment in check. She didn't want Luigi to know she wanted much more than friendship with him.
Without thinking, Luigi wrapped his arms around her kissing her as friends rarely do. He smiled as he walked back toward the restaurant to let Mamma and Rosa know he had invited a friend for dinner. A very special friend.
Mack Mackenzie was pouring coffee for a customer after refusing him another drink due to his obvious inebriation when Nick walked in with a white haired gentleman. Mack guessed immediately that this was the senior Luigi Rossi. The men shook hands
“Call me Lou.” said the older gentleman. “I'm in America now.”
“Luigi is in Camden Corners too. He is visiting your sister, Amanda as we speak. I don't think he has ever gotten over his feelings for her.” said Nick
“I could have told you Amanda feels the same way. She was engaged to some rich guy from New York. That didn't last long. The poor sap had no idea that Luigi has been the only one for her ever since fifth grade.”
Nathaniel Lancaster, III was hovering in the corner adding whiskey from the flask he carried in his pocket to the strong coffee the bartender was forcing on him. He was seething. He remembered seeing some chap standing near the door of the Mackenzie house when Amanda told him to get out. No wonder she broke off the engagement. She is involved with that guy. We'll see about that he said as he slithered out the front door and climbed unsteadily on his rented carriage and headed back down the road to have a little talk with Miss Amanda Mackenzie. He felt for the revolver he carried in his pocket.
“We'll just see about that” he shouted